CHAPTER FOUR: HYPER-SPECIFICITY
by Frank Cowell | Updated Dec 21, 2023
This is a chapter from the best-selling book
Building Your Digital Utopia by Frank Cowell.
What makes business leaders avoid specificity? To use a trendy acronym, it’s FOMO: fear of missing out. They’re afraid that if they get too specific with their message and targeting, they will miss out on some of the audiences they serve.
“Shouldn’t we also be engaging with this audience over here?” they think.
At the same time, their company might have ten different things they could offer the marketplace, and they want to make sure they communicate all of them. However, the truth is they only excel at a couple of those offers.
When you create a message that isn’t hyper-specific, it becomes harder for people to decipher who the message is intended for. The message becomes muddy and generic, rather than speaking clearly to a specific audience. That’s what Dan Kennedy means when he says a great brand repels as much as it attracts, but it’s a fact that many businesspeople have failed to grasp.
If you want to stand out, you must be willing to polarize. If you want to attract, you must be willing to repel.
If you can’t get specific about who you serve—if you continue trying to serve a dozen different audiences—you’re going to have trouble competing in the marketplace, and you’re going to find it increasingly difficult to grow.
FOCUS ON YOUR BUYER PERSONA
When we talk about hyper-specificity, we’re talking about how you engage through your go-to-market activities. You may have more than one buyer persona, and that’s fine. However, your go-to-market campaigns need to become much more specific.
I recommend hyper-focusing on one buyer persona and making sure that person is crystal clear. Understand them on a deep emotional level. Who is this person? Where do they live? What is their lifestyle like? How do they think? What is their job title? What is their level of education? What questions do they have? What are their biggest challenges and frustrations? How are you going to change their lives?
When you clarify a buyer persona, you can engage the marketplace without trying to attract a broad range of people with varying interests and needs. Instead, you can focus each campaign on one type of person, honing in on
one pain point.
Ask yourself, “What is the one pain point my organization is really good at addressing?” Even before customers do business with you, you can provide information and resources to begin helping with that pain point. In doing so, you convey the idea that you’re so good at solving that pain point that your help goes beyond your service offering.
If you’re a B2B company, you may be trying to engage with a buying cohort, but your messaging should still lead with one person in mind. If you have multiple people in the cohort that you need to connect with, then you will need multiple campaigns, each one going after a specific individual. This will always be far more effective than a general message that is meant to take in multiple people. To find the one person you need most, determine which individual in the cohort cares the most about solving the specific pain point.
Some companies have done a masterful job at identifying a clear buyer persona for their messaging. Consider the manufacturing company HOLDRITE, which produces industrial plumbing equipment. Their marketing director, Darlene Byrne, has developed a buyer persona named Frank the Foreman. Everyone in the company has come to know Frank the Foreman extremely well, and they are very specific about serving him.
They are so obsessed with helping Frank that when it comes time to develop new solutions, they find people who best represent that buyer persona and bring them into the conversation, letting them participate in research and development.
When you have this kind of clarity—when you make it about the person and not the product—then even a “boring” product like industrial plumbing becomes exciting. You have fun stories to tell because you know the person you’re talking about, and you’re very good at innovating solutions for them.
FOCUS ON YOUR OFFERING
Once you have a clear idea of whom you’re engaging with, and what pain point you’re addressing, you can develop a clear understanding of what you have to offer to solve that pain point for that person. Remember, this isn’t about all of your offerings. You need to narrow your focus to one or two specific offerings that create conceptual value for your buyer persona.
Bear in mind, what you lead with may not be your biggest economic opportunity. Rather, it should be the offering that resonates most clearly, or best solves, that specific pain point for that specific buyer persona. You’re leading with clarity that will resonate with that person.
How can you decide which offering to focus on? Making that decision will require some honest discussion within your entire executive team. Which of your customers are happiest? Which are getting the best results and have the highest retention? Which customers refer your company the most, increase their spending the most, and deepen their relationship with you?
The answers are sitting there in your existing client base. It’s all right in front of you. You don’t need to do expensive market research to figure it out.
You can certainly survey your customer base to obtain this information. In fact, it’s always a good idea to survey your customers. However, you’d be surprised how much you can learn by inviting small groups of customers to a series of coffee meetings and talking with them. This kind of face-to-face research is easy to arrange and very affordable. Plus, it contributes to long-term relationship building.
What it boils down to is this: The more specific you get in your targeting, messaging, and offering, the better your results will be. Yes, the size of your audience will shrink as a direct result of specificity, but your outcome will be greater.